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31 March 1988
Three Continents 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 384 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7195 4433 5
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... on a beach at midnight, and things proceed to a natural conclusion. This is heiress Harriet’s first taste of ecstatic sex, and it goes to her head. She proceeds to marry him. Since the mid-Fifties, RuthPrawerJhabvala has been scrutinising such inter-racial marriages, as well as examining the importation into India of European attitudes, and vice versa; her earliest novels were domestic comedies ...

Poles Apart

John Sutherland

5 May 1983
Give us this day 
by Janusz Glowacki, translated by Konrad Brodzinski.
Deutsch, 121 pp., £6.95, March 1983, 0 233 97518 7
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In Search of Love and Beauty 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 227 pp., £8.50, April 1983, 0 7195 4062 3
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by Sally Emerson.
Joseph, 174 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7181 2134 1
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Flying to Nowhere 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 89 pp., £4.95, March 1983, 0 907540 27 9
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Some prefer nettles 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Secker, 155 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 436 51603 9
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The Makioka Sisters 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Secker, 530 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 330 28046 5
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‘The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi’ and ‘Arrowroot’ 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Anthony Chambers.
Secker, 199 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 436 51602 0
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... term). And its well-intentioned soppiness matches the romantic expectations of the 1981 thaw. After the crackdown, Orwell’s consigning Boxer to the knacker’s yard seems a more plausible outcome. RuthPrawerJhabvala is a very different Pole. In 1975, with the Booker Prize awarded (to the accompaniment of some chauvinistic protest), it was commonplace to rank her with Conrad. The follow-up to Heat ...

Family Life

Penelope Fitzgerald

25 March 1993
Poet and Dancer 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 199 pp., £14.99, April 1993, 0 7195 5189 7
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Peerless Flats 
by Esther Freud.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £14.99, February 1993, 0 241 13385 8
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... The poet is not a poet in RuthPrawerJhabvala’s new novel, and the dancer is not a dancer. ‘Although her movements were always the same – she waved her arms above her head, she ran now to the right of the room, now to the left – her ...

The Master

C.K. Stead

30 November 1995
Shards of Memory 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 272 pp., £15.99, July 1995, 9780719555718
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... a space for the kinds of writing which screenplays forbid – a large loose bag into which she can pop odd pieces of narrative embroidery? Such questions may help to explain the unsatisfactoriness of RuthPrawerJhabvala’s recent novels. Or simpler explanations may be more pertinent: waning energy, for example, and the loss, or abandonment, of her real – her serious – subject. Polish-born ...


Gabriele Annan: Anita Desai

27 May 1999
Fasting, Feasting 
by Anita Desai.
Chatto, 240 pp., £14.99, June 1999, 0 7011 6894 3
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... in her Touch of Evil days. The title, Baumgartner’s Bombay, is a rueful allusion to Baedekers – Baedeker’s Italy, Baedeker’s France. In a sense, all Desai’s novels are Baedekers. With RuthPrawerJhabvala, she is the best of guides to what it’s like to be Indian, and maybe that is because she is half-German – PrawerJhabvala is Indian only by marriage, and Polish by birth. It is usually ...


Sylvia Clayton

5 April 1984
Something Out There 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Cape, 203 pp., £8.50, March 1984, 0 224 02189 3
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My Search for Warren Harding 
by Robert Plunket.
Robin Clark, 247 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 86072 071 3
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West of Sunset 
by Dirk Bogarde.
Allen Lane, 248 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 9780713916324
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... Hermann, though not Franz, Kafka is to be found. Its style is stage-Jewish and the effect of its bluff reproaches is embarrassing. She is a wonderfully clear-sighted writer, innately courteous, like RuthPrawerJhabvala or E.M. Forster, to the creatures of her imagination. It is foolhardy of her, though, to take on Kafka, whose work remains a set text for any examination on the 20th century. Both ...

Sir Jim

Reyner Banham

22 May 1980
Memoirs of an Unjust Fella: An Autobiography 
by J.M. Richards.
Weidenfeld, 279 pp., £10, March 1980, 9780297777670
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... knows) everybody. The index to Unjust Fella runs to some six hundred entries, of which three-quarters are people, from Aalto to Zuckermann, taking in Fidel Castro, Elizabeth David, Erskine Childers, RuthPrawerJhabvala, Robert Byron, Lawrence Durrell, Le Corbusier, Malcolm MacDonald, Tambimuttu ... and Donald Maclean. It is completely typical of the whole book that Maclean (whom he knew at school at ...

Booker Books

Frank Kermode

22 November 1979
... David Storey, Paul Scott, Iris Murdoch, for instance. Beyond that it isn’t easy to see much significance in the list – perhaps there’s a nostalgia for the old Empire (Scott, J.G. Farrell, RuthPrawerJhabvala, plus Nadine Gordimer, Naipaul, and P.H. Newby on Suez). Negatively, you won’t expect, and won’t find, anything that looks very ‘experimental’. Muriel Spark must have come up ...
11 June 1992
Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History 
by Vron Ware.
Verso, 263 pp., £34.95, February 1992, 0 86091 336 8
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Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation 
by Mary Louise Pratt.
Routledge, 257 pp., £35, January 1992, 9780415026758
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... prepared herself for her mission by learning Bengali and taking a course for governesses at the Home and Colonial College in London. What followed after her arrival in India reads like the plot of a RuthPrawerJhabvala novel. Finding it easy to dislike the memsahibs and missionaries she met in Calcutta, Ackroyd unexpectedly found it easy to dislike the Indians too. Acquiring premises for her school ...

Who were they?

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: ‘Thuggee’

3 December 2009
Stranglers and Bandits: A Historical Anthology of ‘Thuggee’ 
edited by Kim Wagner.
Oxford, 318 pp., £22.99, January 2009, 978 0 19 569815 2
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... world of superstition, ritual and death’ and ‘uncovers an unknown side of his personality, a mystic affinity with the blood brotherhood’ of the thugs. While Merchant’s sometime collaborators (RuthPrawerJhabvala as well as James Ivory) seem to have winced when faced with the chief plot premise – that an upper-class Englishman could effortlessly pass himself off as a lower-class Indian – ...

Paper or Plastic?

John Sutherland: Richard Powers

10 August 2000
by Richard Powers.
Heinemann, 355 pp., £15.99, March 2000, 0 434 00862 1
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... few awards have been made to older and tried hands: proven winners. As a cohort, novelists are MacArthur’s senior citizens. William Gaddis (1982) was awarded a fellowship at the age of 60, RuthPrawerJhabvala (1984) at 57, Susan Sontag (1990) at 59, Ernest J. Gaines (1993) at 60. Thomas Pynchon was a relatively young 51 when he won, but by 1988 already the author of his major works. The ...
21 May 1981
Jane Austen’s ‘Sir Charles Grandison’ 
edited by Brian Southam.
Oxford, 150 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 0 19 812637 9
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... we could read the play, we could hear tantalising snatches of it in a film which began by re-enacting the Sotheby’s auction – Jane Austen in Manhattan, directed by James Ivory and scripted by RuthPrawerJhabvala. Jane Austen’s contribution to the film was admittedly slight to begin with, and became wholly submerged, in what turned out to be a subtle, ambivalent study of two rival producers ...

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